What are your expectations for the homestay and ecotourism segments, and how is this likely to impact the market for hotels and lodging houses?.
AUNG MYO MIN DIN: I, personally, do not anticipate the inclusion of these two new accommodation categories outlined in the new Tourism Law to dramatically impact the market for hotels and lodging houses. Rather, it is the demand of the tourists themselves that will lead to growth in these segments. The demographic of tourists in Myanmar is rather diverse, which therefore requires a diverse range of accommodation. This means that, as long as there is a demographic who prefer high-end accommodation, there will remain a market for luxury hotels. Likewise, as long as the tourism sector continues to attract budget travellers, there will be a market for cheaper hotels and lodging houses. The demand for homestays will come from those tourists who prioritise proximity to the local community.
Besides the increasing economic capacity of the Myanmar population, what are the key enablers for growth in domestic tourism?
AUNG MYO MIN DIN: Improvements to transport infrastructure across the country and wider internet access, allowing increased utilisation of social media, are key factors contributing to the growth of the tourism sector. The sector would also benefit from becoming more sustainable and competitive. This could be achieved by consolidating a domestic tourism strategy to better understand the market and direct resources to the areas that need them most.
The government can also encourage growth of domestic tourism by providing investors with more competitive land prices, or some form of tax incentive. Moreover, it is imperative that tourists have access to affordable transportation, travel packages and knowledge of tourism destinations. This set of actions could be mutually beneficial for the government, travel agents and Myanmar society. Indeed, not only would this promote growth within the tourism industry, but also could increase government revenue, allowing rural development and improvements to infrastructure.
What do you identify as key priorities for promoting Myanmar as a tourist destination?
AUNG MYO MIN DIN: The top priority is continuing to improve transport infrastructure. The government’s role in this is pivotal, since it channels funds to the various provincial and regional departments who are then responsible for the development and maintenance of transport services. The second priority is to create short- and long-term development plans for the utilities sector; we must ensure continuous electricity supply, as well as improving the sewage and water systems. As the third priority, tourism organisations should collaborate to expand the scope of activities available in Myanmar. At the same time, the private sector should partner with the government to assist in marketing and creating resources such as development plans and investment guidelines, which the private sector can use and implement. Alongside this, it is important to promote collective responsibility and ensure the preservation of tourist attractions and local communities.
How is the ongoing process of digital transformation shaping tourism, and in which areas is Myanmar still behind international standards?
AUNG MYO MIN DIN: Myanmar is in its infancy regarding digital transformation in general. The most fundamental step is to implement online payment systems across different platforms. It is currently challenging for domestic tourists to make online payments because card users must first register and then wait several days to access an account in order to purchase online products and services. It is imperative to develop short- and long-term strategic plans for digital transformation to prevent Myanmar from lagging further behind its peers and to make the tourism industry more competitive.
U Aung Myo Min Din is the Chairman, Myanmar Hotelier Association
Source: Oxford Business Group, reprinted with permission